When I was growing up if I saw something European at the grocery store I would almost always buy it. This was back in the day when Evian was considered exotic and nobody had even heard of Nutella. Nowadays you can find American knock-offs of most foreign products but my heart still goes pitter-pat when I find things that are actually imported from Europe.
My local HEB grocery store has been cornering the market on Italian stuff lately. They have a ton of Primo Picks that are fresh off the boat from the Old World. Yes, you can get American pasta anywhere, but I swear there is just something more magical when you eat pasta that was actually made in Italy. I like to imagine the beautiful castle where the pasta is made, artfully draped on wood racks that have been used for centuries. What? You mean to tell me that Italian pasta is made in factories, not in castles? Whatever. Don’t rain on my Italian parade. The nice thing is that authentic Italian pasta is actually not very expensive (and there are all sorts of cool unusual shapes!) so you can spring for some fancy sauce too and not break the bank. We tried the Orti de Calabria vodka sauce. Talk about flavor! Yummmm! It’s a pretty affordable dinner and it beats drab old spaghetti with Prego.
HEB was kind enough to send me a fantastic goodie bag of some of the Italian products they are carrying right now. You guys, this is not mamby-pamby Americanized crap; this is full-flavored authentic stuff. Before I even opened the box I could smell it. In particular the Sabatini Tartufi truffle salt. This is like garlic salt but a million times better (and swankier!). Here’s what you can do: defrost some frozen bread dough, roll it all out, then slather it with melted butter and sprinkle with truffle salt. Cut the dough in slices, bake it and you have some super easy but molto delizioso breadsticks. Plus you can be all braggy to your friends and say, “Oh those just have a bit of truffles on them.” Hopefully your friends are smart enough to know you mean mushroom-y truffles and not chocolate truffles.
Italy is nothing without olives and I am madly in love with them so we’re a good pair, olives and I. The Central Market olive oil is actually from Tuscany (pressed outside of the aforementioned castle, no doubt) and is superb. I eat a lot of olive oil and this is one I will definitely be buying again. The Taggiasca olives are also fantastic. They are sweet but a little tangy and would make a great muffaletta sandwich. Listen, I like plain old black olives from a can too, but these are ooh-la-la so good. Perfect for an appetizer platter for the upcoming holidays, hint hint.
You’ve watched It’s A Wonderful Life, right? We watch it a couple of times every Christmas and there’s this scene where Mr. Potter (the jerk!) is telling George Bailey to stop wasting his time helping those poor immigrants. He calls them “garlic-eaters” in the most sneering tone imaginable. Every time he says that I’m all, “Mr. Potter you are truly a psycho.” Italian food is where it’s at, man! If you live in Texas head on over to HEB and pick up some yummy Italian goods. They’ve got you and all the other garlic-eaters covered!